Ex-Charlton, Plymouth and Brighton keeper Andy Petterson: My career never recovered after joining Portsmouth permanently

Andy Petterson was a loan revelation, an inspirational figure who helped resurrect a Pompey campaign spiralling towards relegation trouble.

By Neil Allen
Monday, 22nd June 2020, 5:00 pm
Andy Petterson made 34 appearances for Pompey before leaving in March 2002
Andy Petterson made 34 appearances for Pompey before leaving in March 2002

The Charlton goalkeeper arrived in November 1998, with Alan Ball’s side precariously positioned 20th in Division One following four straight defeats.

By the time he was wrestled away from Fratton Park having completed the loan maximum of three months, Pompey had amassed 17 points from 13 games to clamber up the table.

However, the Australian is convinced his career never recovered from returning to the Blues five months later – this time in a permanent arrangement.

He told The News: ‘The loan spell went well. The permanent move didn’t, unfortunately.

‘It was the beginning of the end when I went back to Pompey. My career never really recovered.

‘I was kind of a journeyman before that, but at least was signed to a parent club and sent on loan to places.

‘After moving to Pompey permanently it was six months here, three months there. It was the beginning of the end for my career. I guess everything happens for a reason – and for some reason it happened to me.

Wolves' Robbie Keane heads just over in the 1-1 draw with Pompey in August 1999. Picture: Richard Thompson

‘I always had belief in my ability and always wanted to play. However, my piece of the puzzle just didn’t fit into Pompey at the time.

‘I think I was a good goalkeeper, although maybe mentally didn’t have the belief in myself enough.

‘I’m a bit of a laid-back, casual sort of guy. Sometimes you have to be that pushy arrogant sort of person for the coach to take notice of you a bit more. I tried to do it, as a footballer you have to be a bit of an actor, but it just wasn't in my nature.

‘I’m sure there’s a billion players out there who, like me, are journeymen, who had good times somewhere, but unfortunately it went a bit pear shaped.

Andy Petterson suffered a disappointing return to Fratton Park after signing permanently in July 1999

‘I guess I was lucky, I had 16 years as a professional footballer in the UK. That’s what gives me the belief that I was a decent goalkeeper.

‘But something wasn’t quite there for me to go to the next level, I guess.’

The former Australian under-20 international’s nomadic career totalled 19 different clubs after arriving in England as a teenager at Luton in 1988.

Having left Pompey in March 2002, following 34 appearances, he never again totalled more than eight games for a club.

It wouldn’t be until his return Down Under in 2005, where he featured for Newcastle Jets and then ECU Joondalup, when his first-team outings picked up again.

He added: ‘My loan at Pompey went fairly well. I had a bit to do in the games and, by the time I left after three months, we were four places above the relegation zone and there was light at the end of the tunnel for the boys.

‘It had been frustrating not playing in the Premier League for Charlton, I was always one of those goalkeepers that complained when they didn’t play, I wasn’t happy to sit back. So it was good to get down to Fratton Park and play regularly.

‘Aaron Flahavan had been injured at Swindon following Iffy Onuora’s challenge, so Knightsie, who was the goalkeeping coach, was playing. However, the team were struggling and Bally wanted to bring in a new face.

‘The fans took me on board, they chanted my name and the standing ovation I received in my final game against Bury is something I will never forget.

‘I went around the pitch thanking the fans afterwards and they seemed to stay behind to give me a clap in recognition. I also received lots of letters thanking me from supporters after returning to Charlton.’

Following injuries to rivals Sasa Ilic and Simon Royce at The Valley, within seven weeks of his Pompey loan return he became a Premier League regular, appearing in the final eight matches of the campaign.

However, in the summer of 1999, he was released following Charlton’s capture of Dean Kiely for £1m from Bury.

Alan Ball was keen for a Fratton Park reunion, this time on a permanent basis, but it wasn’t straightforward.

Petterson added: ‘My agent was speaking to Pompey, but at the time they were in administration. He kept warning me “The move isn’t going to happen”. Certainly there was talk of someone taking over, but nothing was progressing.

‘Still, Wolves’ boss Colin Lee was interested. I was in Australia and flew back to England ahead of signing at Molineux on a two-year deal on the Monday afternoon.

‘Then, late Sunday, my agent called. Milan Mandaric had taken over Pompey and they wanted to talk on Monday morning.

‘That was the club I wanted to join, I had familiarity there. I signed a three-year deal. If the club had been taken over 24 hours later, the move would never have happened and I would have ended up at Wolves

‘Instead they signed Michael Oakes, but it was only a number two role behind Mike Stowell. Bally wanted me to be his number one at Pompey.

‘Besides, the new owner coming in was promising all this stuff which never quite materialised when I was there. We would have a new training ground in two years, the stadium is to be renovated in four or five years!

‘I never played for Bally again after a 1-0 defeat at Fulham in November 1999 – and five games later he was sacked.

‘We actually had to walk from the hotel to get to Craven Cottage because the traffic was so bad, although that had no bearing on the game.

‘I came for a cross near the end, which I didn’t quite get to, and Wayne Collins scored an 89th-minute winner.

‘I was having problems with assistant coach Kevin Bond at the time. He was getting onto me about coming for crosses, how I needed to come for this and had to come for that – trying to put things into my head.

‘I had a bit of an argument with him in the changing room afterwards, a few things were said. Aaron Flahavan was in the goal for the following match at West Brom.

‘Maybe they were expecting something from me which I had produced when I was on loan. I was working my hardest trying to play as well as I could, but there was pressure on the players and pressure on the coach for results. Bless his soul, Bally was more of a survivor than a Championship manager.

‘Bondy was okay when I was there on loan, but when I came in permanently it changed. I don’t know whether I had done something to upset him, but he seemed to have this bee in his bonnet about me.

‘When you have a coach shouting at you from the sidelines about things, it can play on your mind and affect your game a little.’

Petterson earned a recall for new boss’ Tony Pulis’ first match in charge – a 3-2 home defeat to Wolves in January 2000.

He would play twice more for the Blues, both arriving in April 2001 under Graham Rix following injuries in the goalkeeping department.

He had been recalled from a loan spell with League Two Torquay to feature – only to then himself be sidelined with bruised ribs following a collision with team-mate Carl Tiler in a 3-1 defeat at Blackburn.

A fit-again Flahavan replaced him for the final two matches as Rix’s side sealed final-day survival with a 3-0 triumph over Barnsley.

And Petterson would never play for the club again – joining West Brom on a free transfer in March 2002.

He said: ‘Just before we went on holiday at the end of the 2000-01 season, Rixy had us taking fitness tests at Fratton Park.

‘I actually worked really hard that pre-season to come back with the same fitness. I wasn’t the skinniest-looking of guys and Rixy thought I was carrying a bit too much weight.

‘We were doing the pre-season runs as normal and I tore my calf – that remained a problem for the rest of my career. I never got to the bottom of why it kept going after that.

‘I ended up at Brighton and faced Pompey in August 2002, losing 4-2 at Fratton Park, but eventually the calf went there as well.

‘I can’t use the calf as an excuse, I still had opportunities, but in 2005 I couldn’t find a club and came back to Australia to play.

‘You sometimes wonder if I had gone to Wolves, a more stable club at the time, then things may have gone differently, but in football everything happens for a reason.

‘At Pompey we had an owner with money, but I remember losing a couple of games and Mandaric decided the salary would be late that month. There were things like that.

‘There wasn’t even stability at the training ground. We trained at Eastleigh, we trained at HMS Collingwood, which was a mud bath most of the time when it rained. There was never the facilities and professionalism.

‘I’ve sat back and looked at things. Could I have changed that? Could have I changed this? I’m at Bali United now as a goalkeeping coach, we won the league last year. I’m in a happy situation.

‘My partner is Filipino, so I can see myself probably settling in Manilla once I finish in football, running goalkeeping academies.

‘From my point of view, I have experienced the highs, the lows, all that kind of stuff, so can relate to goalkeepers. I’ve been through plenty.’

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